In all the years we've been to Leadville neither
of us has ever hiked all the way up to Timberline Lake. One time I
walked up maybe half a mile beyond the Colorado Trail, which is also
part of the LT100 run course, but I didn't continue far enough to see
Iím glad I went farther today and Iím sorry I havenít gone up there
Timberline is a beautiful lake and bigger than I expected from looking
The trail is very
rocky in some places but I donít mind that so much since Iím not running any more. At
least I could see these rocks; I couldnít see some of them on the
overgrown Willis Lake Trail last week.
There is more than one
Timberline Lake in Colorado. This is
the one west of Leadville in the San Isabel National Forest.
The trailhead for Timberline Lake is also the
break point between Segments 9 and 10 on the Colorado Trail. Access to
the parking lot is off the road that circles Turquoise Lake (FR 105)
about a mile from the western end of the lake. Total distance to the
trailhead from downtown Leadville is 10-12 miles, depending on the route
on FR 105 on the south side of Turquoise Lake
The LT100 course goes right through this small
parking lot both outbound and inbound. It follows CT Segment 10 for a
couple miles to Hagerman Rd., then splits off from it. I've been on that
trail numerous times since 1998.
Today I followed the CT for only about a quarter
mile. I crossed the Lake Fork bridge just SW of the parking area,
then headed up the wide trail to an
intersection with two large metal X's:
At this juncture the CT goes left (south) and
the trail to Timberline Lake continues straight (west) for about two
miles to a scenic basin with the lake.
Just up the trail a hundred yards from the intersection with the
Colorado Trail, the Timberline Lake Trail enters the Holy Cross
Wilderness Area. I filled out a permit and continued up.
The elevation at the trailhead is about 10,000 feet and the lake is at
The first 1ľ mile rises very gently, only about 500 feet. The last ĺ
mile is steeper Ė another 500 feet. Itís still a pretty easy grade,
This is a great trail for dogs, with plenty of water to drink.
I mostly followed Lake Fork, the creek that drains into/out of the lake
and down into Turquoise Lake, crossing over it and a couple feeder
creeks. I crossed on rocks going up but just walked through water three
times on the way back to clean my shoes.
Despite the dog leash rule in the wilderness area, Cody was off-leash most of the time and so
were three of the other five dogs I saw.
There were lots of flowers blooming, pretty boulders and smaller rocks,
and distant views of some snow on the mountains south and west of the
The trail is partly shaded but also goes through several open areas:
Near the top of a rocky climb I was surprised to suddenly find myself in
the basin with the lake.
VIEWS OF TIMBERLINE LAKE
It is about two miles to the SE end of the lake and another ĺ mile to
the far end on the south side of the lake.
When I first got up
to the lake I didn't know there was a trail on the south side.
I crossed the outlet and tried to hike around the NE side of the lake
but got only about ľ mile before turning around because of all the boggy
areas and boulders:
Then I hiked on the SW side to the far end and up the inlet a little
The trail on this side of the lake is easier to follow along the
shoreline and through the forest, although there was some deadfall to
climb over. I chose to climb up on a couple of rock formations to access some
There are many scenic viewpoints on
this side of the lake:
At the far NW end of the lake you can tell where the water level was higher
earlier in the year when there was more snowmelt.
Now that part is
covered with grass and flowers:
This is a very clear, scenic lake. I loved it and so did Cody. He got
into the water to drink and chase sticks several times:
I hiked 6ľ + miles and took 2:54 hours doing it. That included taking
lots of photos, playing in the water, and stopping for a snack on a
sunny rock outcropping over the lake.
Center of photo: a woman sits on a rock,
I saw several other
people while I was up at the lake and on the way back down. I imagine
this trail would be busier on a weekend.
I descended to the trailhead more quickly because 1) the views
weren't as interesting that direction, 2) I took 90% of the photos going
up, and 3) it was downhill! Here's one shot going down:
I highly recommend checking out this trail when you're in the Leadville
area. It's fairly short, a relatively easy grade, and at a lower
elevation than some other alpine lakes in the San Isabel National Forest.
Next entry: Mt. Elbert summit hike
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil